Becoming a foster parent is a rewarding experience. But there are steps you have to take before you can help that first child. In Ohio, this process can take up to a year, depending on which county you reside, how many workers that county has and a few other issues. Yet, each county has a time frame for each step an applicant must take before becoming a foster parent.
Here are the steps you must follow if you want a foster parent applicant in Ohio.
First, you must call your local County Family and Children’s Services and ask about pre-service classes. These classes are free to all applicants. Some counties host these classes more often than other counties. Ross County, for example, tries to host four of these classes per year. These classes run for six weeks and are usually two evenings a week, three hours per class. When you ask about these classes, you will be asked for your name and address. That agency will then send you an informational packet that contains information about these classes (dates, times, locations, etc.) as well as some other basic information about becoming a foster/adoptive parent.
After you receive your information packet, you should read through the material. If you are still interested in becoming a foster parent, you must then sign up for pre-service classes. You do not have to take these classes in the same county you reside.
You must, however, take all the classes. If you miss one, you will have to reschedule the miss class when the next classes start.
If you are a married couple interested in becoming foster parents in Ohio, both spouses has to take all classes. This also applies if you are going to team foster with someone other than a spouse.
You do not have to take the classes in the county you reside. You can take the classes in any county and then be licensed in the county you reside. Most people choose to be licensed in the county they reside, but sometimes they choose another county. To decide this, you should speak to a social worker in your county to see what fits your situation the best.
Within 30 days after you complete the pre-service classes, you will be mailed another packet. This packet contains more information on foster parenting and adopting. It also contains a more detailed application and a medical statement that you must take to the doctor. The doctor will have to state that you are healthy enough to take care of a child. It also contains a fingerprinting card and a fire inspection form. All these forms will have to be completed and mailed back to the agency. The detailed application and the fingerprinting card will have to be completed within 30 days. Then family assessment will begin. The fire inspection card and the medical statement will have to be completed before the last interview for the family assessment.
Family assessments will now begin. This is another word for home visit. This will consist of 3 to 6 interviews with all family members. Your home will also be accessed for safety measures and to see that the bedroom area where your foster children will reside is similar to the other bedrooms. During this time the case worker will also talk to your references. This is a good time for you to also ask all the questions you have. No question is a silly one. This process can take anywhere from two to six months. Remember paper work does take time. The agency also will do a background check on you (the reason for the fingerprinting). No, they are not interested in any driving tickets. But they do care if you have a history of crimes against children. The agency is not out to look for bad things against you. They just want to make sure that you can properly care for children. During this process, especially, remember everyone involved is working for the children.
What can make this process go quicker? Honesty, being open about your life, helping to make the schedule work (remember case workers are busy, if you can change your schedule to help them, it will help a lot).
After you go through all the family assessments (home studies), then comes the process called recommendation of licensure. The assessor will take all of his/her reports about your and your family to the Placement Supervisor and or the Administrator of Children’s Services. This is the person who will hopefully approve your recommendation of license.
The approval will be sent to the State of Ohio and they will once again review all the information. They will then have to issue you a license number which a copy will be mailed both to you and to the agency. The agency has no control as to how long the state department takes. On average they take anywhere from 14 to 45 days. The agency can not place any children into homes without this license.
Is this a long process, yes? Will you be frustrated at times, yes? Will it be worth it in the end, after you receive your license and are helping that first foster child, hopefully yes.
Fostering is a rewarding experience. It is also a hard, demanding experience. Don’t go into this with just your heart strings. Use your head. Do some thinking. Do the research. Ask the questions. If you decide to become a foster parent, continue to ask the questions.